Starting tomorrow, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will be trialling a priority service for tourist visa applications for nationals from the People’s Republic of China. The decision to implement such a service is part of a push to improve Australia as a tourist destination, and to therefore grow the local economy.
This trial is for Chinese nationals only and for the Tourism and Business Visitor streams of the Subclass 600 - Visitor visa. The visa applicant would request and pay the AUD 1000 fee in addition to the required visa application charge.
There are, however, important caveats to keep in mind for such a regime. Although it is expected that the DIBP will try and make decisions on these applications faster, there is no regulatory timeframe, and therefore no guarantee that a decision will be made within a certain period. Nor can there be. This is because delays may occur if an applicant has not met all of the criteria for approval such as by omitting to undertake the necessary medical assessment, if required. This service will also not change the criteria for approval which every application must satisfy so those that do not satisfy the requirements for the visa to be granted will be refused regardless. There will also be no refund available unless the visa application charge is being refunded. Invalid requests such as those passport holders not listed to participate will be refunded the priority service fee.
The Explanatory Memorandum states that this trial “may appeal to affluent individuals who may wish to travel to Australia at short notice.” One can view this as good news for those needing to travel urgently to Australia for business meetings, and penance for those who were disorganised and did not lodge their “slower” visitor visa application with enough time allocated for processing.
Lastly, depending on its success, there is potential scope to open up this service to other countries, and perhaps to other visa subclasses. Obviously any applicant would want to ensure that they have lodged a decision-ready application to get their money’s worth.